With 20/20 hindsight, nothing that transpired last night at the polls should have surprised anyone. Let’s look at some of the lessons learned:
It’s the Economy, Stupid
None of us can forget that day in late September of 2008 when John McCain said he would suspend his campaign until the economic crisis had passed. In particular, he was suggesting that his upcoming debate with Barack Obama be cancelled. Obama responded that a President needed to be able to do more than one thing at one time. Well, ten months into his first term, one has to wonder if Obama has taken on too much at one time. Last night’s election of Chris Christie in New Jersey and Bob McDonnell in Virginia signal that there is one overwhelming concern among average Americans and that is jobs, jobs, jobs. McDonnell ran with the moniker “Bob’s for jobs” and Christie promised to lower taxes. I think it’s fair to say that most people aren’t connecting health care reform with improving the economy. Unless we escalate our war on terror on a par with one of our old World Wars, we won’t see the “war industry” employing lots of people the way it did in the 30’s and 40’s. The push to go green has not yet produced substantial employment opportunities. So with Obama focused on health care, Afghanistan and climate change, many Americans are left scratching their heads on where the jobs are coming from. These gubernatorial elections should send a message to the White House that some economy/job focus needs to happen fast … and show results fast.
Don’t Take Moves from the Republican Playbook
2008 was the year of campaign silly season, led by the Republicans who threw every ridiculous charge at Obama that they could (charges that persist ten months after his inauguration). Sadly, neither the Corzine nor the Deeds campaigns learned that, particularly in serious times, you don’t run trivial campaigns. Corzine made fun of Christie’s weight and ran nasty ads about supposed criminal wrong doing gone unpunished. Deeds made a big stink about some paper McDonnell had written over 20 years ago. If you can’t battle your opponent on current issues, you ought not to be running.
Wash off the Wall Street Stink
This one is easy. Americans hate fat cat wall street veterans with a passion right now. Corzine’s history as head of Goldman Sachs might not have hurt him in his first run, but now it is virtually the kiss of death unless you have a very good story to tell in the “now”. With a very low approval rating, Corzine’s current story couldn’t wash away the Wall Street stink.
Don’t Embrace Endorsements from Ass Hats
In the NY-23 race, the minute Doug Hoffman got his Facebook endorsement from Sarah Palin, he should have known it was over before it started. Then Glenn Beck jumped on the band wagon. Before you know it, Hoffman was being lauded as the Tea Party Candidate. When Republican Dede Scozzafava got pushed out of the race, she had the good sense (and the courage) to back the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. Hoffman didn’t understand that when people are hurting they want a serious representative to take up their cause in Washington. They don’t want a perceived wingnut. Of course, it is no surprise that Hoffman eagerly accepted the support of Palin. He was essentially a male version of Palin: totally ignorant about the local issues important to his potential constituents. Of course it didn’t help that he was a carpet-bagger. But even carpet-baggers like Hillary Clinton could succeed with hard work, learning about their adopted home, as she did with New York. Hoffman was not that smart.
The RINO You Have is Better than the Wingnut You Don’t
The fact is Newt Gingrich was right this time. Sure Scozzafava was not chosen in the ideal way (i.e. by primary) but the bottom line is no matter how liberal she was, she was unlikely to buck the Republican caucus in the House all that often. She would have been a reasonably reliable vote. Now thanks to the interference of Palin, Beck, Pawlenty, Armey and others, the 23rd district will send a Democrat to the House for the first time since 1873. This should be a wake up call to the GOP that moderation is not a bad thing.
Liberals are Lazy
Without the galvanizing motivation of putting a ground breaking President in the White House, liberals sat on their asses last night. You can’t win if you don’t play.
The Age of the Referen-dumb
If we had decided civil rights for blacks and women by referendum, we would probably still have a Jim Crow south and women not voting today. Why in the world are the equal rights of homosexuals being decided by “popular” vote? The gay activist groups need to get this issue before the courts quickly so that eventually the Supreme Court can rule marriage discrimination unconstitutional and be done with it.
The overall lesson learned this year is that voters are not interested in right-wing or left-wing extremism or trivia. They are looking to people to solve problems and the biggest problem right now is finding employment and keeping your home. It’s a bi-partisan lesson that better be learned by both parties as we move into 2010.